The Fools On The Hill, A Story Of Survival

In the dead of the night when you take your sweet sleep
Through the dark dismal street’s to my labours I creep
To the din of the loom till my poor brain seems wild
I return an unfortunate factory child
The bright bloom of health as forsaken my cheek
My spirits are gone and my young limbs grow weak
Oh ye rich and ye mighty let sympathy mild
Appeal to your hearts for the factory child


The above poem gives a child’s eye view of a time of indescribable misery

The Fools on the Hill

The one consistent violation of human rights that has cried out down the decades, is the abuse of the disempowered working class. There are no words to adequately describe the disempowerment of the people from who’s ranks I am proud to have come. Let me emphasise at the start of this, I have no political affiliation, non-whatsoever, I do not vote. 

The age I grew up in knew nothing of learning difficulties or what is now called Dyslexia. Back in 1954 children who exhibited this type of disability were simply ignored and seen as an embarrassment by the education authorities. No attempt was made to reach out to these people, they were called remedial and placed in hellish classrooms with the name of; ‘Lower remove’ or Lower, lower, remove, tattooed on their backs. Note the word “Lower,” If anything was a demotivator to learning that word was, it was like the word ‘Scum?’

I am giving an account of what I will ever think of as an evil that penetrated the minds of so-called educators of that time, to describe them as ‘failed teachers’ is totally inadequate, words fail me to describe their mentality, some were just plain ignorant others were dead to human feeling and conscience. They sent a generation of helpless, defenceless, disempowered young people into the wilderness of the workplace, without so much as a pea shooter to defend themselves. It is a subject that has been skilfully hidden, but thank God in very recent times more is being understood. Some years ago, a thing unheard of took place, a Downs Syndrome girl (Age approx.21))  Passed her driving test. I think this stands as a proof that words like, ‘Thick’, ‘not quite the ticket’, ‘’mental’ do not come anywhere near describing this disempowered group of people.

Having myself left school in 1964 illiterate I believe I am qualified to speak on this subject with experience and authority. If I live to be 100, I will never be able to fully articulate the horror of illiteracy or the evil of a “Teacher” telling a 14-year-old child that they are, “F……Useless, and will ‘never get a job as long as they have a hole in their arse!” The fear instilled in a child of that age is beyond description.  I am giving an account of Secondary Education, a time between 1954 and 1964. The education available to people with learning problems was almost non-existent. Speaking for myself the only thing I can remember is fear, absolute fear. Life was lived among absolutes like, “Make a man of him” “Lazy little whore” “You have to beat it into them”. Teachers were bullies and mostly totally incompetent to deal with disability.

The Class of 1962 that I was in is now a time capsule lost in the grip of eternity. The non-people of those times were crushed in a merciless struggle to survive, some, did not survive. The Secondary school that I attended between 1958 and 1962 will always be a place of misery. The shear extent of that misery cannot be described here nor ever will be.

Heart racing fear and almost superhuman mind torture don’t really touch the surface. The ignorance of what was really happening was skilfully hidden by pervert teachers and indifferent teachers, many, (Now looking back) with severe personality disorders, the unseen violent almost pathological hatred towards those with learning disabilities cannot be described here, such a world is regarded as gone, as gone as last year’s horror film… I can’t think of one teacher who could conceive of one such as me escaping the curse of illiteracy and giving a true to life account of this evil.  Thousands were left helpless and shackled to merciless employers. When they had as much as they could take, they eventually turned to crime.  Being someone, or more importantly, “Being something” was essential to survive in a society that saw the uneducated as less than human!

Children were beaten in order to get more work out of them, like in the poem, “The factory child” above. The workplace was a place of cruelty, bullying and abuse commonplace.  Most of the people that I went to school with were sons and daughters of farm labourers who live in tied cottages. The parents of these children lived in a fatalistic vacuum of hopelessness, what you couldn’t change had to be endured, and my God did they endure!

Taking a child from that environment and placing them in a so-called place of learning was extremely dangerous. For most of them it was an alien place of fear, they just didn’t understand why they were there! Poverty was normalised, many turning up to school believing that they were to dig the garden, many of them skilled at holding a spade or fork but no idea how to hold a pen! They were derided by the teachers, mocked by the middle-class pupils, physically abused by perverts, regarded as non-entities, and at no point helped in any way.

When they left, “School” they entered a hostile work place with no one to address their misery. Each one of those pupils was an island of potential, but, education for them was like a lion at their heels, growling, threatening their very existence, convincing them of their uselessness, the world was not for them, they were the, “Thunderstorm that created their lovely rainbow”  

The Britain of the late 1950’s was one that had a dark view of, “Manhood”. Young Learners or apprentices were abused regularly, a new learner or apprentice in the workplace would be subjected to a, “Christening” process, this involved having their testicles greased with industrial grease, young men would have to endure that without crying out in fear. Other sick things occurred that are too heinous to mention here.

The England of today is like another planet, I find it no wonder that the young of today are so ignorant of those times. Every generation has its high points and low points. The post war generation believed in beating children who they regarded as thick and, in some places, encouraged bare knuckle fighting. The weak, sickly and disabled were more than outsiders, people did not like to think of such things, there was a “Special place” for such people, special, in the sense of ‘out of the way’ they were ugly.   For any child of that time to break through and land a good job (Male or female) was virtually impossible, the jobs that were available were, farm labourer, factory assembly line workers, cleaners, road sweepers. Jobs where you had to have literacy skills were not achievable for the graduates of a class like Lower Remove. 

Being someone or something in those days was the thing that kept you out of trouble, otherwise, you were a thing of derision or contempt. Applying for a job, unable to fill in an application form, in order to sell yourself in any way to a prospective employer, would have been impossible, and so, you followed your parents on to the current field’s potato picking fields, factory floor sweepers, dead end prisoner’s, non-people, thicko’s, useless to society. There are no words to describe the agonising desolate hunger to liberate yourself, some of course turned to crime, I cannot, do not, blame them at all.  Fortunately, I never went into crime but, that was only because my wife, being a teacher, (Albeit a Nurse teacher) was able to give me a basic education. 

I have never been able to leave behind my fellow classmates who were victims of a post – war system that was structured to fail. I write these lines with a burning sadness inside me that will not ever go away. Those victims were left to the horrors of disempowerment, they walked on to a cruel landscape that wanted a pool of sweat on the floor for every penny they earned. The tangled web of confusion here is impossible to communicate. I don’t believe that this has been a welcome subject on the agenda of educators. You cannot educate people who have only known abuse in the classroom and workplace. There were no “Workers rights” for them, “Put up or get out” was all they knew. We are so far away from that world today that it makes no sense to most people to rake this all up again, however, a society that forgets is a dangerous place.

Governments and politicians have many ways of excusing themselves, the horrors of the past only come to light through skilled writers like, Jeremy Sanford who wrote, ‘Kathy Come Home’ However, the attention span of most people is very limited and the evil worked on Kathy, soon fades into the ether.

Education or Damnation or both

A typical day in the life of Ivan

The smug bearded ‘teacher’ drops his briefcase onto the floor with a thud as he sits (angrily falls onto the chair) at his desk!

He has been instructed to take the ‘C stream’ drop outs known as, ‘Lower Remove’ He has been instructed to take this lesson with lower remove due to staff sickness, he does not want to be there. None of the class can read or write (Which he knows full well)  He throws exercise books at them; they bang on to the desks.

The year is 1958, a time when the country, according to the Prime Minister says, “You have never had it so good” In a torturous vacuum of claustrophobic despair, the children of lower remove wait for the insults to come………

Ivan Carter cries in silence ……..   Tomorrow, when he hears the school bus approach, he will hide behind the bus stop and later in the haystack on the side of the field, his mother and father (Simple Country folk) will think he is at school. Thank God his Mother has packed him some sandwiches. A kindly farm labourers’ wife will call him in for a mug of tea at 12pm, she tells him, “Its our secret me dearie don’t you go worrying!” No relief or place of calm for Ivan, no Enid Blyton stories to escape to, no safe place, even his childhood stolen from him. The old lady’s welcome cup of tea is the only refuge he will ever know, but even that energised by fear.

I hope in this short study to demonstrate what has resulted in the mass betrayal of a generation. To show what the curse of disempowerment in the lives of children and young adults can result in, to give personal accounts of, for want of a better way of putting it, “The Road” 

The Foggy Ruins Of Time

“There is a way that seems right unto a man but, the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 12: 16)

The world of learning disability was unknown during the time that I grew up in, it is therefore no surprise that some of the cruellest vile teachers slipped through the net.

One of the worst things to happen in the history of education is that it has attracted many career minded people. I first became aware of this when the charity Toch H visited the care home I was working in. I was instructed to drive one of their supervisors back to the local railway station.

This particular Home printed a monthly magazine, one month it printed an account of an elderly lady who had donated £30 to our home, she had held some fundraising evenings in her home, I happened to mention this to the supervisor who promptly jumped down my throat and said; “were not interested in £30 pounds, we want a couple of thousand at a time like we get from the ‘Joggers club”!  

This was a great wake-up call…………

The tragedy of bringing caring into the marketplace with a business motivation can hardly be overstated, true vocational carers forced to work under abusive senior’s soon resulted in an exodus of good competent caring auxiliaries. The link between nursing real people with terrible problems and pain was once obvious, it has now become blurred by managers and senior care staff assisting on meeting, “Targets” Driving already overworked care assistants to work harder in the sweat and toil of a hostile workplace.  Most if not all the Care assistants/Ancillaries that I worked with were poorly educated and therefore subject to stress.

I am trying here to show the link between bad education and disempowerment in the workplace, especially in what has commonly become known as ‘care work’ During my 38 years in ‘care’ I have never known a discussion take place on this subject, indeed it has been strategically avoided I believe. After I retired, I asked for an appointment with a Senior Social Worker, let me say it was a total waste of time. One of the very telling things she said relating to Care Assistants was: “You can’t let THEM have too much power you know!” Coming from a Social Worker the utter disgrace of that statement stands alone as an insult of monumental proportions.

The career structure inside of education and the caring profession has, in my opinion, poisoned the genuine and put off millions of good caring people.  As previously stated, the people that I am trying to shine a spotlight on, simply do not appear in the visual field of politicians, teacher’s health professionals, and others. They exist on a very different landscape. I am constantly being asked how it is possible for such a vast number of people to be invisible, I emphasise, they are strategically invisible. Our society simply could not exist without the unskilled on the lower regions of the employment ladder. It is an insult to call them ‘working class,’ they exist in a twilight world that as yet they have not comprehended.  Disempowered people do not know they are disempowered and therefore, they are treated with complete indifference, they to all intents and purposes do not exist.

Over the past 50 years the awareness of learning disabilities has helped lead many people out of disempowerment. The growth in parental awareness of mental health problems together with things like dyslexia etc. continue to make people aware. The internet and the media have brought about a vast change for sufferers. The reality of people with these problems can no longer be denied or avoided.

We now come to the very tedious problem of, ‘Those who teach’ are they more involved with Targets or holistic education. A career structure has been built into the education system with ambition and career motivation encouraged. Also, In the world of nursing and care providers we now have people like Senior Care and managers making life miserable for those under them, young carers pushed beyond the level of endurance, and eventually leaving the service. It is my conviction that Inspectorate teams have constantly failed to pick up on this. Good vocational carers are leaving the service due to the incompetence of so-called health professionals? 

Disempowerment respects no laws, it is a world that accepts chaos, crime is an inevitable consequence of disempowerment. I once was homeless and had not eaten for two days, let me say it was an experience that will be remembered till I die. After two days in that condition you will literally do anything to survive. I was one of the lucky ones, I managed to hitchhike home to my family. Having to find lawful work and energise yourself in that condition is near impossible.

The saddest thing about all this is that pure uninhibited discussion on this subject has seldom if ever really taken place? Why? 

It seems to be that if you are unproductive, then you are in a vacuum of indifference that eventually leads to a trench, if you try to get out of that trench you will walk into rapid fire!  Endemic in British society is the idea that you identify yourself with a necessary ‘Task’ I work in IT, I am an Engineer, I am a bus driver etc, admittedly, “I am a toilet cleaner” does not have the same ring, however, in our present society, students have to take on such jobs to finance their grant, this has led to the stigma being taken out of more menial jobs and a levelling off of what is regarded as employment.

The Sun is setting on the children of Lower, Lower remove, their scars and wounds will bleed for a long time, many still live with the scars and shame of illiteracy, all I can do is quote my friend Charlie Chips,

“Open all the doors and sail on through, for the ship of the mind is sailing tonight with Captain Courage and his crew”

Over and out:

Chris Pitts

Below are the words to my song, “Cruel Suffolk eyes “I wrote this because I thought it may last a bit longer than my book – “The Caring game” 

Cruel Suffolk Eyes

The winter roads we walked in 1962    
In such darkness and misery
Trying to live not able to forgive
In the nightmare of illiteracy

Bent out of shape by the perverts of the game
Education’s gallows sick empire
Where the elitist passion went untamed
And all who fell left burning in the fire
Cruel suffolk eyes, in lower remove with the foolish wise.

I went in hiding and tried to act the part
Cleaning the toilets and sweeping the floors
In the dread and doom in the paralytic gloom
Knocking at perceptions door
Cruel suffolk eyes in lower remove with the foolish wise

Doomed then forever        
Like driftwood on the weir                
And no one cared what became of us   
In our shame and our paralytic fear     
People ask me to look back and to recall
And they ask me how i feel?
Why not ask the butterflies and birds
What it’s like to escape the steamroller’s wheel

Here’s to you the class of 62
We’ll never know the dignity of a reunion
But i pray somehow, you’ve learnt to make it through
In that spiders web of fates communion.
Cruel suffolk eyes in lower remove with the foolish wise

This is an attempt to lay down a witness to what happened to a generation of child rejects. The “Eyes” referred to in this song are those of a teacher who would fix you in his gaze and scare you, a man who believed in education by fear, a man totally unfit to teach valuable children.

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